Estimated 135,000 Alcohol-Related Cancer Deaths Predicted Over Next 20 Years

Alcohol could cause 7100 annual cancer deaths by 2035.

By 2035, alcohol consumption will cause nearly 135,000 cancer deaths in the UK, with the largest increase projected in esophageal cancer, followed by bowel cancer, mouth and throat cancer, breast cancer, and liver cancer.

The estimates were conducted by Sheffield University, and the report was commissioned by Cancer Research UK.

The report also forecasts more than 1.2 million hospital admissions for cancer over the 20-year period, which on average, will cost the National Health Services (NHS) £100 million per year.

The findings were based on analyses that assume alcohol drinking trends will follow those seen over the last 40 years. Recent declines in alcohol consumption, including among young people, were taken into account.

Earlier this year, UK government guidelines were published, which advised men and women to not drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week.

Although evidence suggests that the more alcohol consumed, the higher the risk of cancer, a Cancer Research UK study reported that 9 of 10 individuals are unaware of the link between alcohol and cancer.

The researchers examined the impact of introducing a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol in England. The results of the study found that a 50p MUP per units of alcohol could reduce alcohol-related deaths by around 7200 over 20 years, including about 670 cancer deaths. Furthermore, it would reduce health care costs by £1.3 billion.

“These new figures reveal the devastating impact alcohol will have over the coming years,” said Alison Cox, director of Prevention at Cancer Research UK. “That’s why it’s hugely important the public are aware of the link between alcohol and cancer, and what they can do to improve their risk.

“If we are to change the nation’s drinking habits and try to mitigate the impact alcohol will have, then national health campaigns are needed to provide clear information about the health risks of drinking alcohol.”

The reported estimates follow a recent court decision in Scotland that found that a minimum unit price would not break European law.

“These latest figures show the serious consequences for individuals, the NHS, and society, if the UK government continues to ignore the consequences of the nation’s drinking,” said Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance. “In particular they reinforce the need for a minimum unit price for alcohol. It is clear from the report that MUP will save lives, including those lost to cancer, and ease the burden on our health service. Importantly, MUP will do this while leaving moderate drinkers and prices in pubs and bars unaffected.

“In addition, we need mandatory health information on the labels of all alcoholic products, informing the public of the link between alcohol and cancer, and the new low-risk drinking guidelines. The public have the right to know about how their drinking impacts their health, so that they are empowered to make informed choices.”